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Sutter praises Toffoli after latest Kings win

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter walked into his Sunday media session and pretended to be a cameraman in his own scrum. He stood behind one of the cameras and playfully asked questions like a reporter.

"Did you think that was a good goal?" Sutter joked. "What did you think of your third line?"

The small group of giggling reporters almost couldn't get over it. Roughly 12 hours earlier, Sutter conducted a 42-second postgame press conference that featured him in his classic, tight-lipped contrarian stance.

Tyler Toffoli
Center - LAK
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 11 | +/-: -1
Sutter was cheerier a day after his Los Angeles Kings trailed 3-2 in the Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks. Their attempt to become the fourth team in NHL history to win after erasing a 3-0 deficit resumes with Game 6 at Staples Center on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME).

Part of why Los Angeles has climbed back into the series is the play of right wing Tyler Toffoli, 22, who is playing on a line with 21-year-old left wing Tanner Pearson and veteran center Jeff Carter.

Sutter, known for being demanding of young players, heaped praise on Toffoli, who scored the first goal in a 3-0 win in Game 5 and has grown comfortable in his first full season in the NHL after he began it in the American Hockey League.

"Tyler Toffoli's been a good player all year," Sutter said. "The [salary] cap didn't allow those players to be here at the start of the season. He went down in the right frame of mind. Tyler was the guy who was [re-assigned] but he's still pretty good. He still maximizes his skill set, which is what you try to do with everybody. Ninety-five percent of the time is when he does. He's the reason why we're not not playing. He's played really well. The right wing position, the first part of the series, he's been our best right winger, that's for sure."

That's a big statement for a team with Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Sutter favorite Trevor Lewis playing the right side as well. Toffoli is generally one of the Kings' better players on the wall, and Sutter has seen him use his body too.

"Playoffs are more and more about … there's a little bit physicality involved, and you've got to be able to make plays in traffic," Sutter said. "He's shown that he can do that. You don't have to do that in the form of taking penalties or anything like that. Just do it in the form of maybe you've got to get knocked down to hang on to the puck and get knocked down to try and get it back. If you're willing to do that, you can have success as an individual."

Toffoli said he's tried to develop that part of his game.

"When you're bigger and stronger, you can make plays and get open," Toffoli said. "Create some space for yourself. That's always good. Especially in the playoffs, you don't want to get pushed around. You want to stand your ground, and that's what I'm trying to do."

Los Angeles got back to its defensive structure in Game 5. San Jose went 0-for-5 on the power play, coming up empty in eight minutes of the man advantage. The Kings also forced San Jose into 26 giveaways and 16 missed shots.

Sharks forward Patrick Marleau had no shots on goal, Logan Couture had two and Tomas Hertl one. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick recorded his eight career shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, four of which have come against San Jose.

"I think the last two games we've gotten back to it," Carter said. "We were a little better [Saturday] night and still got a ways to go. [Quick] had to make some big saves for us, but when we're playing our game and playing the way we know we can, we're a confident group."

To a man, the Kings deny that coming back from a 3-0 series deficit seems less daunting now that it is 3-2 coming home.

"There's a lot of work left to be done," Carter said. "We've got to win a game at home and we've got to win another game in their building. It's not an easy thing to do."

That task took a turn on San Jose's end because defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was injured in Game 5 and did not practice Sunday. Vlasic was part of Canada's gold-medal defense at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, along with the Kings' Drew Doughty.

"We've got enough guys banged up," Sutter said. "I couldn't care less about their players. We've went through it the whole series, quite honest. If he's in, he's in. If he's not, he's not. We've [decided] it til game time, two or three of our guys, every game. I'm sure he's a tough guy, and our guys are tough guys. That's why they stay in the lineup."

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